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Lucky's Blog

This blog has been created to keep our customers, partners and friends up to date with pertinent information relating to our industry, technical or otherwise. It will also keep everyone up to date with M.C. Dean's ever expanding capabilities. Thanks to all my followers and I hope you find this blog both helpfull and informative. Best Regards: Lucky Drake

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pushing Through The Pain

Last weekend I ran my first half-marathon. It was a great experience, but I realized some things along the way that translate to everyday life and business, so I felt the lessons learned would make for a good article this week.

Over the past several months I have been running every week pushing a little further each time in preparation for this race. As some of my followers already know this all started with the Triathlon I did last year. So I guess now I am addicted to the adrenaline? Obviously this race would test my determination and commitment even more. In the weeks leading up to the race I had run the full 13.1 miles several times, taking roughly 3 hours each time. While this is not a great time, for someone who has never done this before and doesn’t have a history of running, I felt good about just being able to complete the overall distance and time wasn’t my primary concern.

On the morning of the race it was very cool with about a 25 MPH wind. It was still dark out and a slight rain began to fall as we were all standing at the starting position. I was shivering and asking myself; ’what the heck am I doing here?’ As I looked around I could see some of the same perplexed looks on other faces. Then, in what felt like only seconds, but in reality was nearly an hour, I could hear the National Anthem being sung in the distance at the front of the starting post. I could feel my adrenaline start to build. It was as though I was a kid again on the football field waiting for that first hit! Before I knew it we were on our way and the journey had begun.

Once my blood started pumping I had forgotten about the cold and the wind was refreshing. By mile 3, I was feeling great and passing people by the dozens. By mile 5, I realized that I had set my pace way too fast and was already starting to feel fatigue setting in. At this point I knew it was going to be rough to finish. Once I had reached the mile marker 5, the course spilt. On the left was the race route heading out and on the right was the race course heading back, with a turnaround at the 7.5 mile mark.

By the time I hit the half way mark I noticed many people cutting across the median and heading back on the right side return path. I can remember thinking to myself, what are they doing? They are only cheating themselves. I mean why even sign up for a race if you are going to cheat yourself? I further thought, now they will show great times they didn’t even earn. Either way this had nothing to do with me or my goal so I shook my head and continued on. I learned a long time ago not to judge what I do based on other people. While my main goal was to just finish, I was hoping that I would be able to at least match the three hour times that I had been setting during my training.

Despite all the training I had done, by the time I hit mile 10, I was in enough pain to question why I ever considered doing this. It felt like f o r e v e r before I came across mile marker number 11, and I was ready to quit and start walking, as many others had already done. However, “quit” has never been in my vocabulary, so I continued on pushing through the pain.

I started thinking about how earlier I had seen people cheating, and all of the people who had given up and started walking. While I knew that there was no way I was going to meet my goal of finishing at the three hour mark, I definitely was not going to quit. I stopped thinking about how much pain I was in, and the fact that I still had over two miles to go before the finish line, and started thinking about other times in my life where I had to push though the pain.

Throughout my career there has been many times where I thought about quitting. I have had some pretty painful personal experiences as well that I have had to endure. However, I have never given up and I have never run away. I spent the remainder of the race thinking about all the trials I have been through and what I have learned from the experiences. I thought about how much richer my life is due to pushing through, and what would have been lost had I ever given up.

Before I knew it, I could see the finish line! The adrenaline kicked back in and I sprinted across the finish line. I had done it! I finished the race, and to my surprise I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 34 mins. Nearly a half hour faster than any of my training runs.

In business, and in life, there are many times we can all feel like we are not appreciated, that we are not doing a good job, or that we should just quit. Sometimes when you think you are doing poorly, if you keep your head down and push through, you may just surprise yourself and find out that you actually rocked it out. Remember, it is true that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and that true leaders in this world don’t quit. They push through the pain. In the end you will have more enriching experiences and be a better person for what you have endured. As I have said before, it is only when faced with adversity that true character is revealed, and it is your decision to be a cheater, a quitter, or to push through the pain and find solace in the fact that you have done your very best.

[Side Note: In the race when I got to the turnaround point there was a marker that read your timing chip. So all of the people who decided to cut across and cheat, ended up with a “disqualified status” next to their number on the board for all to see when they got back to runners row. Now that is Justice!]

Friday, March 9, 2012

Let The QB Make The Call

One thing that continues to shock me is the amount of micro management that happens inside businesses today and it only seems to be getting worse. Maybe I am mistaken, but throughout my career I have tried to make sure that I have the right person assigned for the right job. Or as one of my colleagues so eloquently put it, ‘there is a butt for every seat!’

Many of you already know about all the parallels I use between football and management. I do this to help illustrate internal structures and responsibilities. Even when somebody doesn’t really follow football, they do understand the basic principles and usually this helps to simplify the same rules that apply in business. So to continue along that theme this blog is about Micro Managers and their effect on a team.

I have always believed that you need to hire the right person for the position, train them on the policies and procedures, give them clear direction of your expectations, empower them to make decisions, and then hold them accountable for their performance. However, while this is all common sense, it is rarely common practice. It has been my experience that too many managers feel they have to get involved with everything their team does. While it is important to have spot checks and evaluate progress, micro managing will kill a high performer’s drive. It will also cause you to have an increased amount of workload, because you have instilled a sense of fear and dependency amongst your team and everyone is afraid to make any decision without your counsel. One easy gut check is to ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I have team members asking me how to do their job?

2. Do my team members come to me to make decisions for them?

3. Do I have team members coming to me with everyday simple problems?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then there is a chance you are micro managing your team. While all managers could answer yes to all these questions from time to time, if you are constantly being bombarded, you are probably a micro manager.

In football a head coach will put together the plays, the game plan, and probably even script out the first several plays. However, after the huddle breaks and the quarterback surveys the defense, he has the ability to change the play and call an audible. In other words the coach has empowered him to make a last minute decision based on his experience and training. Now don’t take this the wrong way, the coach and the quarterback have spent countless hours reviewing tapes and planning for required adjustments prior to the game, but when it comes down to it, the coach lets the quarterback make the call.

There are times that you will want your team to come to you for instruction or to make decisions, but that should be spelled out in your expectations and only apply to things that will have a substantial effect on the task at hand or the successful completion of a project. If you are handling, or getting involved in, day to day activities, then what purpose does that team member serve? Either you have the wrong butt in that seat (such as a linemen playing QB) or you have not provided that team member with the proper training & expectations nor empowered them to effectively own their role on the team.

Over the years I have seen many great managers, employees, and even interns ruined by micro management. As our economy continues to struggle, large corporations are putting in more policies and procedures (red tape) to try and have more control over everyday decisions that should be trusted to management. They are taking everyday decision making duties and “streamlining” them into corporate mandates, taking away any power the manager had to help influence his customer base, vendors, and team. They are taking away the ability of managers to make decisions that affect the bottom line and the profitability of their group. I have been slowly watching companies turn managers into figure heads for nothing more than to be a lamb led to the slaughter when the balance sheet dips into the red. If you want to lose your top performers, then this is a perfect way to do so. However, if you want to retain the best in the business you have to empower them to make those decisions and then hold them accountable. Real leaders and true managers want that power, and embrace it. They understand that they will be held accountable, but that they also control their own destiny. The best way to kill a strong leader or manager is to start holding them accountable for things they have no control over.

In the end it is all about job satisfaction and your team members wanting to do a good job. As managers we need to make sure that we are empowering our teams to be self reliant. We should all be taking the time to make sure that we hire the right butt for each seat. Train them and empower them with responsibility, and then hold them accountable to those decisions. All in all, let the quarterback make the call.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Only As Good As Your Team

Many management professionals, at some time, become convinced of their own superiority and forget how they were able to achieve their level of success. The truth is that behind every successful manager there is a highly effective team that helped put them there in the first place.

I know that I am nothing without my team, and they are the reason for our overall success. Every team member I have, from the woman who cleans the office, all the way up the corporate ladder, is an essential part of our operation. No one position holds more importance than any another. If one of us fails we all fail. This applies to every structure, in every job discipline, across all economic make ups. For example, I have seen many incidences where people will walk right by a receptionist without so much as a head nod of acknowledgement. But think about it for a minute. If the receptionist didn’t answer the phone and transfer the calls, your customers would have a more difficult time getting in contact with you. If the receptionist didn’t file the papers for you, then all of your documentation would begin to pile up. Or worse yet, you might have to file it yourself! OMG!

While it may be easy to appreciate your team when everything is ‘rainbows and unicorns’; it is when everything goes wrong that your team needs to know their value more than ever. I know that I am guilty, when thrown into a stressful situation, of firing off at individuals about where their mistakes were and how they had better get a grip on things ASAP! I would like to think that in most cases, after the first tirade, I make it a point to go back and help lend the support required to resolve the issues in a supportive effort. You need to take the time to remember that your team members are people too, and they will make mistakes. They want to do a good job and are more than likely just as upset about the situation as you are; in many cases even more distraught. It is in these circumstances when true character is revealed. When it seems that everything is falling apart, those are the times I realize how lucky I am, and how great my team is. When I have multiple offers of help, and when we all really come together to quickly resolve the issue.

In recent months things have become very stressful and multiple issues have surfaced during the restructuring process within our company. However, due to the help of my team and their relentless support, we are getting over the hump and getting things back under control. It became obvious that my team cared about me and the situation I was in by the way they came to my rescue. I believe that this is a direct result of the fact that I have cared about them as well, throughout my tenure. As Lee Cockerell said in his book “Creating Magic”, treat your employees the way you want your customers to be treated, and treat them as though they were your family. When you think about this, it is really pretty simple. I spend more time with my team at work than I do with my family. Right or wrong, that is the truth. I do truly care about them and their futures. I want to make sure they get where they want to in their careers, and I want them to enjoy coming to work.

Every morning when I get out of bed, I look myself in the mirror. I focus on trying to be a better person, a better mentor, a better father, and a better husband. This is a ritual I started decades ago but it has really helped me to become an all around better person than I was in my younger years. As managers it is important to spend some time self analyzing and paying attention to how you are affecting those around you. The best advice I can give when it comes to being an effective manager or leader is to let go of your ego and your narcissistic ways. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Stop thinking that your kingdom belongs to you because it doesn’t; it exists because of your team, and therefore it belongs to everyone. Treat your team the same way you want to be treated, the same way you want them to treat your customers, and care about their future more than your own. Take the time to try and better the lives of others and you will live a better life.